excerpts from the journal of sirena leeds (b.1868 d.1888).

23d april.

this day one year ago what terrible circumstance fell on us; mother was struck ill with a cancer, and suffered long before god's mercy set her free on midsummer's day. the growth saw its root in the back of her head, relinquishing her of her sight some weeks before she last close her eyes. in her last days, the cancer had consumed her jaw, that she could not eat or speak. through this time my brother and i would read aloud excerpts from melville and whitman; oh! how she loved leaves of grass. i sing the body electric. an effort of the will is required of me so that i can think on these lighter times, my mind not on her frightful head pains and spasms.

30th april.

again today i'm seated upon the front porch, my time equally divided by reading and writing. otherwise, i've no heart for my studies, and shudder to think what little i've done here to help father. aside from the arithmetic, which i abhor, and the cleaning, there is not much else to do for most of the time. to think how i read my lovely one's letters so often, it would clear disgust father, and he would send me to a convent. would that i were of means to marry, i should leave this edgewater town and move to the city with a handsome husband and a cache of linens and clothing.

3d august.

dear, it has been such a time since i've written my thoughts like this. the last thursday i celebrated the age of twenty, and i despair to think why my lovely one has been silent in correspondence lately. has his worry of money and the threat of bank foreclosure forced him into a state? and how i do so miss mama. and the songs she used to sing for my brother and i during the winter months when light was scarce. brother and i once walked into a frozen creek during the dusk of one gray and gloomy day. i wept and shuddered, angry and cold when upon our return, mama just caressed my chin and kissed me upon my forehead. she was always such a comfort before her affliction. my lovely one's reluctance in writing is distressing me so. i should think that his love has passed, given to another.

31st november.

the friends of youth seem scattered across the states. i cannot recount the ones who have left for the city, to university, and to places which quiver with movement at all hours. i have lost hope that my lovely one should call or write. nights have grown long this time of year, and not much work in town for father, who is a builder. winter is a desperate time, and i despair of it ever ending. tonight father forbade me to write to my lovely one, and insist that he read the words i've written in this book. i would have died of embarrassment. only after much weeping and pleading did he relent and return to his supper. the first snows have fallen this week, and my confinement in this draughty house put in combination with my friends all having moved on to exciting lives makes me wish that i were with mother.